San Francisco and Beyond

Richardson’s Bay is where Sausalito is. Anchorage is free, so Bill found us a nice spot at least a 30 minute row from the dinghy dock. Free is a very good price, and many of the boats anchored there looked like they had been taking advantage of this for quite a while. It also means that you don’t know how well anchored they really are, thus the distance and the spot on the edge of the pack.

While setting the dinghy up, Nina got stung by a bee that was resting in the dinghy hoisting rope. She survived and we rowed into town. Sausalito is a pretty town, very touristy on the main thoroughfare, but easy to explore on foot. We found the library, a grocery store and had lunch at Sausalito Taco. We also found a hardware store that had a spare French press carafe and promptly bought it.

We headed into San Francisco the next day. The plan was to take the ferry in and catch the bus back. We wandered through the very nice bookstore at the ferry dock in SF and then walked over to Chinatown. Rather than going up Grant, the more touristy street, we wandered down Stockton, where the locals shop. It was chockablock with small groceries full of foods that will never be seen in your average grocery chain. Everyone was out shopping. It was like being in a new world and it would be a fun place to get to know better. We ate our lunch sitting on the steps of the Chinese Hospital and listened to the noon siren and message go off in English and Chinese.

The ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco.
The hill where Nina’s great-uncle lived fifty years ago.

Next stop was to find Nina’s great-uncle Emory’s place on Russian Hill. The hill was as steep as she remembered and we got a great view of the city from the top. Down we went to the Maritime Museum. Had a beer at Ghiradelli Square and headed off to Van Ness to catch the bus back. We had time to kill so we walked down Union and found the Golden Gate Valley Branch Library. It had a really friendly vibe and was well used by adults and the after school crowd. We walked back to the bus stop, waited in the sun, and had the bad word of a bus driver drive right past us. The next bus was at least an hour’s wait so we decided to head for the ferry. We got to traverse Russian Hill crossways to how we’d hiked it earlier. Caught the ferry and wandered back to the dinghy dock in Sausalito by way of the boardwalk. Found a new bookstore that had opened the previous week.

San Francisco from the ferry.

One of the reasons we were in Sausalito was to connect with friends of a friend. We’d all had to reschedule for various reasons and we were finally going to meet up. We were starting to get a little nervous about the weather forecast, though. We were awakened in the middle of the night by strong gusts of wind, 30 knots and up. We seemed to be ok, anchor holding, so we went back to sleep. At about 7:00 am our anchor alarm went off. It was truly blowing like stink, and our anchor was dragging. Fortunately we hadn’t hit anyone. Nina went forward to work on retreiving the anchor and in the process had her glasses blown away. We got the anchor reset. One of the big catamarans next to us had also dragged and was on the other side of the bay. A couple of other boats had dragged, one on the rocks and the other dismasted by Angel Island. We were ok. When the wind dropped, we got the dinghy stowed on deck. And the wind started up again. We cancelled the meet up and decided to leave the next morning.

Back over the San Francisco bar again, smooth trip. Very few commercial boats coming or going. We did get a glimpse of Excaliber, a fishing boat that we’d seen a number of times on our AIS at night while coming down the coast.

We had a nice run to Monterey. Got back from showers to find Raven’s card taped to Gypsy. They are another Rose City boat heading for the HaHa and were just down the row from us.

Bill connected with the brother of a friend and we were going to meet up with them the next day. We had a fantastic day with Tad and Norma. Breakfast, a hike around Point Lobos, a drive to Pebble Beach and we had cocktails at he Mission Ranch (no Clint sightings, tho), and the finals of the San Francisco Comedy Competition at Folktale Winery. It was a full and wonderful day. Thank you!

A view from the Point Lobos trail.
Another view from Point Lobos.

Next day was on to the Monterey Aquarium. One of the coolest facts we learned is that pelicans are descended from velociraptors. We were chatting with one of the volunteers at one of the hands on stations and she asked where we were from, where we were going, etc. Turns out she’d done the HaHa twenty years ago. She heads up to Seattle every year but makes a stop in Portland on the way. Did we know the Bollywood Theater? Another lovely day.

Another laundry day. Bill discovered that we can get additional clothesline if we hook the boom preventer to the flag cleats on the shrouds. The preventer is a line that goes from the end of the boom through a block at the front of the boat and then to the back of the boat. By tying the boom off when we are sailing in light winds or winds that are coming from too far behind us, the preventer keeps the boom from slamming over to the other side of the boat and back again.

Time to move again. Next stop, Morro Bay.

Portland to San Francisco

Here is the we are finally heading south update. We left Portland on a cloudy, cool September 8. We had a great party the night before and it was time to head out. First stop, the fuel dock at Donaldson’s, right next to Rose City Yacht Club, to top off the fuel tank. One of the first challenges on heading down river is the Vancouver Railroad Bridge. It’s an old swing bridge and Nina thinks you can never have enough pictures of it. She also likes to take photos of every ship we pass. We’ll spare you those, unless there’s one that is really interesting.

Vancouver Railroad Bridge, swung just for us. We got right through. Sometimes you have to wait for trains, but this was one of those times we hailed the bridge and they opened it up right away.

Like many trips down the river, our routine was Martin’s Slough for the first night. We left the next morning and actually sailed downstream through Longview. The question then was where to stop next and in how much of a hurry are we. Walker Island offered the opportunity for Bill to play with the single side band radio, Cathlamet had hot showers. We anchored off Walker and it started to really rain. The next morning was cool and cloudy and looked like rain so we started out with wet gear and sandals. On the way to Cathlamet, Nina rearranged the galley drawers and she took a saw to the rubbermaid silverware holder so that it would fit in the top drawer. The left side of this drawer is shorter so that it can slide under the sink and has a divider that makes the space less wide. The holder now fits perfectly and the other drawer were rearranged to make things work better for now.

West Basin, Astoria was the next stop. We had a few projects we wanted to work on there while there before we headed over the bar and south. Nina worked on splicing preventer ropes out of dyneema and making a set of dinghy bridle ropes out of double braid. The preventers will be used to keep the boom from swinging back and forth when it is set out from the center line. We hit the library for some internet time and made a trip to Englund’s for a few items – a new sewing palm and a fishing gaff. More projects: laundry, repurposing an old life jacket strap to hold the sewing machine in place, a main sheet bag, a bag for the companionway drop boards, and adding a handle to the bottom of the laundry bag. Bill worked on windlass maintenance and installing the jacklines and the new preventers.

There’s only one dryer at West Basin and our large load did not quite get dry. Someone else needed the dryer, so we saved some quarters by hanging clothes up outside.
And more hanging clothes inside. On the floor is the sewing machine.

We listened to the weather forecast, hoping that conditions would be good enough to leave the next day, Friday, September 13. Messing with other superstitions, we also had bananas on board. Slack tide was toward the afternoon. Bill had time to check the engine, top the water tanks up. Wind was out of the south, it was raining. We left about noon, passed the last bar buoy at 3:15 and turned left. Our original plan was to sail to San Francisco, about five days away. We made it to Newport. Winds were expected to be out of the south, southwest and increasing up to 30 knots. We hunkered down for a few days. Met folks on a Jason 35 doing the same thing. We were joined by more sailboats there to wait out the weather, one from Vladivostok, Russia.

Sunset at the Newport Marina and RV Park.

We ended up spending four days in Newport. We went to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, went down to the waterfront and the library, did more laundry and discovered the wifi in the laundry room worked really well. Topped off our groceries. Made soft shackles. Killed time.

We left Newport on Wednesday. Small craft warnings for the Yaquina Bar were in effect until just before we wanted to leave. Swells on the bar were supposed to be 6-8′. It was raining. We left. The bar at Newport is narrow and extends out past the jetties. It can get really rough, but we had a good run through it. The Columbia has provided good practice.

One of the things we decided is that, if possible, to sail rather than motor. When we do motor, we usually have the genoa out to steady the boat. We discovered that, steadied or not, ocean waves are much bigger and less predictable in pattern than those on the river. Coffee was spilled. It went in the refrigerator, down the pantry and made a mess. The only damage ended up being to a chocolate bar, so we ate it. The sun came out. Bill refigured out how to get the Monitor steering the boat. We were making good time. Everything that could possibly shake or rattle in the boat was doing an excellent job of it and we were running out of things to stuff everywhere to damp it. Sleep was still not happening for Nina. Three hours of watch and then three hours of sleep are a challenge for someone who doesn’t sleep well in general. Bill can fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

Seas were rolly, we had a couple more coffee accidents, one which broke the french press carafe. That one had an additional flourish of raw eggs. It was not pretty. That could have been the day we had cake and potato chips for lunch. So much for the romance of the sea.

A beautiful day north of Point Reyes, just before San Francisco.
Ready to round Point Reyes about half an hour later.
And then the lighthouse at the San Francisco bar.
Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, almost totally fogged in.

Under the bridge we went. The fog cleared enough to see the bridge and we sailed under it. This was Bill’s first time sailing under the bridge. Nina remembers sailing under it as a small child in the SS Lurline.

A Richardson Bay cautionary tale. We dropped anchor here (Sausalito) on Sunday, four days after we left Newport. The San Francisco bar was smooth and we did not have to dodge any big ships to get in.

North Before South 3

Today’s post is coming from the laundry room at the Newport Marina and RV Park. Sometimes you have to get creative. The marina wifi does not reach down to where we are moored, but it comes in nicely up here. We discovered the wifi when we were actually doing laundry last night. Today it’s cloudy and very windy with a nice strong, gusty south wind. Off and on rain.

Back to August and the islands.

One of the sights on Stuart Island as you head up to the lighthouse. These are American Yaks. There’s a sign that lets you know what these shaggy beasts are and a little bit of information about them. There were three of them in the pasture. Originally from the Himalayas, the breed numbers about 7-8,000. They are supposed to be good to eat and their hair good for spinning.

The main trail from the dock splits to go to the lighthouse or down to the school. We headed for the school in the morning. Because the population of the island is so small, the school has been closed for a couple of years now. The school library is open to the public and there’s a small museum of island history that was pretty amazing. One of the photos was of early teachers on the island. Louise Bryant taught there for a year before going on the cover the Bolshevik Revolution with John Reed. Other teachers stayed and married locals. Family portraits included info about which family members were killed in boating accidents. Another reminder about how hardy folks had to be to live in a challenging environment that to a summer visitor seems pretty bucolic.

One of the other cool things about Stuart Island are the Treasure Chests. These are the way to get t-shirts, caps and other island related stuff. You take what you want and mail in a check to the folks who put them together.

Our last stop for the trip before heading south was Garrison Bay, San Juan Island. Another cool and cloudy day. We rowed over to English Camp and walked around. It’s a beautiful setting with a number of old pear trees. We rowed back to Gypsy and took apart and stowed the dinghy on the forepeak, and hosted Drømen for dinner. We had a fabulous time traveling with Jerry and Joy. Thank you!

Drømen underway. Fair winds!

The plan was to head for Port Angeles in the morning, check the weather and then head out for the coast the following day. The Strait of Juan de Fuca takes about 10 hours to traverse. There’s usually a tide change in there somewhere and in the afternoons, the wind can really pick up. If it’s blowing against the tide, it can get really rough. We decided to keep our options open.

We set off for Port Angeles and ended up making better time than we thought we would. From the weather report, it sounded like winds would be switching from northwest to south in the next day or so, so we decided to keep going to make use of the NW winds. The sun came out and that always helps. Winds down the coast ended up being light so we motor sailed. More clouds. Off of Gray’s Harbor Bill checked the Columbia River Bar times. We’d either have to blast down the coast at 10 knots (not possible with our hull) to make the afternoon tide or shoot for the 10 pm tide. We slowed it all down. The engine was turned off and we tried sailing and let the monitor wind vane do the steering. The winds were very light and not quite getting us where we needed to go, but it did successfully kill some time. We got to the bar a little early, but skies were clear and we crossed slowly with the Milky Way visible overhead. The full moon rose over Young’s Bay, huge and orange. At 12:50 am we tied up at Astoria West Basin. It took us 42 hours from Garrison Bay.

A good night’s sleep and hot showers! We packed up the offshore gear: jacklines were stowed, the anchor reconnected, and all the salt was washed off the boat. Rode the flood to Cathlamet for an overnight. From Cathlamet, flew the spinnaker through Longview, and dropped anchor in Martins Slough. Next and last stop Rose City Yacht Club.

Spinnaker flying as we pass ships at anchor near Kalama.

North Before South 2

First, a quick update. We’re currently in Newport, Oregon waiting for the weather to settle, and posting from the Newport Public Library. Our trip down from Astoria went well, smooth seas, light wind from the south, and the motor running the whole way. Not quite how we wanted to sail to San Francisco. We tucked into Newport because those light south winds will be increasing over the next couple of days to the point we don’t want to go bashing into them – gusting to 30 knots or so. Seas would be confused and just not pleasant to be in. Around Wednesday, the fronts should have moved through and we should be back to a north or northwest wind that we can actually sail with. We have time to be prudent.

So, back to North.

Ganges, Saltspring Island. Groceries. Ganges was hopping. The anchorage was full. The guest dock was in the process of being taken over by a 131′ motor yacht. Drømen anchored close in to the public dock and we anchored out about a 15 minute row away. Got our groceries and caught a ride on Drømen out to Gypsy. We all headed to Annette Inlet on Prevost Island and rafted up again. One of the fun and nice things about rafting up is alternating boats for dinner or appetizers.

The next day, rafting up in Princess Cove, Wallace Island. You can clearly see the ropes off Drømen’s stern that are tied to the shore. The sheet-like thing hanging in the back of Gypsy’s cockpit is our aft sun shade. There is a also a sunbrella shade that goes forward to the back of the dodger that also slides into the pole slides into the top slit in the pole. We had an extra furler section and turned it into our shade support.

Wallace Island has two small coves for anchoring, Princess and Conover. Most of the island is now a park and has a nice trail to walk. Back in the 50s and 60s the island was owned by David Conover who built and ran a resort there. There are a few buildings left. It’s a beautiful setting, but walking around it reminds you that you had to be pretty self-sufficient to make a go of things on an island.

Aside from bopping between islands, this was also a voyage of discovery for the Gypsy crew. We needed to get our sailing skills back up. We got our motoring skills honed. Not much usable wind for where we were going. Bill had the single sideband radio to figure out. It simply would not talk to its GPS. The wiring diagram came out one more time and he noticed that the installation needed a ground. We managed to find an appropriate length of wire, installed it and hoorah, it worked! This means that we can send and receive text emails while out and about and more importantly, weather forecasts. Nina finally learned to use a pressure cooker.

Quick stop at Tent Island and on to Chemainus, a town on Vancouver Island. Joy had reserved slips for us both at the marina. It’s a tight marina with an awesome wharfinger. The town is known for its murals. Many depict local history and some of the newer ones are influenced by Emily Carr. It was a fun way to get some exercise and learn about a town. Enjoyed dinner at Thai Pinto and breakfast the next morning at Bonnie Martin. Chemainus had a lot going on. There was the weekly live music concert in the park, a farmers/craft market in the morning, a mill strike that was in its seventh week, some really good ice cream, and a nice grocery store a decent hike from the marina.

Vesuvius, Saltspring Island was our next stop. We had stopped there twenty years ago and met a potter that we bought a bowl from. We thought we’d try to look him up again. We tied up at the public dock, walked up to where the pottery shop was and it was now something else. Disappointed, but not too surprised, we headed back to our boats. Our next destination was Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island. We were going to meet friends of Jerry and Joy who have a Cascade 36.

Destiny, a Cascade 36 owned by Nick and Gail. They’ve lived aboard her for twenty years up and down the coast. She’s a beautiful and well kept craft.

Stuart Island, back in the States was our next destination. In the old days, you had specific ports of entry that you had to check into before going anywhere else. Joy told up about the ROAM app and Bill managed to get it loaded on his phone (wifi while cruising is interesting) and then get the data to upload. We made a phone call, and were admitted entry. No frantic circling at Friday Harbor waiting for the customs dock to become available and juggling documents while on the phone to the customs officers. Dropped anchor at the west end of Prevost Harbor.

Stuart can only be reached by boat or private plane. It has maybe 15 permanent residents. Turn Point Lighthouse is a nice walk from the boat dock.

Turn Point Light.

Do you want to know where we are?

We have been asked, is it possible to know where Gypsy is? The answer is yes most of the time.*AIS (automatic identification system) is something big ships have been using for years. The AIS transponder on a ship sends out a signal that says here I am, my name is xxxxx, this is my course and speed.
Small boats like Gypsy can also get a transponder. We may or may not show up on radar, but we will be seen on AIS.
There is a website called they collect AIS data and display it. You can search for a boat and find out where it is.
The problem with a name search is there are a number of Gypsys and Gypsy varients. You can also search by MMSI number, which is a unique identifier assigned to a boat. If you have a Gypsy boat card you have the MMSI, if not it is 367591410.
You can also create an account and add Gypsy to your fleet. You will get daily emails about our location.
* If Gypsy is offshore, it is likely that we are out of range so you won’t get any updates untill we are back in range.

Bill and Nina

North Before South 1

We spent a provisioning day in Oak Bay, did laundry, had lunch at a lovely french bistro that had excellent local beer: Vis-a-vis and Penny Farthing. Then it was on to Sydney Spit to meet up with friends on Drømen. Except the engine started and promptly died. The kill switch on the engine was sticky, so we fixed that. Not the problem. So fuel filters were next. The big one wouldn’t come off (the wrench was still in Portland). Got everything tightened back up, cleaned up, and the engine bled and off we went. We managed to get out of the tight windy marina without crashes or scratches but it was close.

First stop: Sydney Spit to meet up with friends Jerry and Joy on Drømen.
Nina, Joy and Jerry on Sydney Spit. We rafted up and rowed over for a hike on the spit.

On the left: Gypsy and Drømen rafted up. Drømen has her anchor down and in this photo is also stern tied to the shore. Gypsy is tied up to Drømen. This way only one boat has to do all the anchoring. We’re rafted in Princess Cove on Wallace Island. Our respective dinghies are on the right.

From Sydney Spit, we headed over to Fulford Harbor for a lunch stop. The public dock is really short and was full so we circled around and headed off to the north side of Russell Island. One nice thing about the Gulf Islands, is they are all fairly close and we were able to get to the next island in 2 to 4 hours. Not much wind so a lot of motoring.

Russell Island was originally homesteaded by a Hawaiian family who had an orchard. It’s now a park and in years past, they’ve had volunteers who talk about the family and their history. This summer, the volunteers were renovating the buildings. There are a couple of short trails and we walked those. We anchored separately at Russell and Bill turned on his AnchorWatch ap. Boats do not stay in one place at anchor!

The next day it was on to Ganges for groceries.

More exciting travels later: the Astoria Public Library is about to close for the day.

We’re on our way

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful Bon Voyage party. We are very grateful for your friendship and support. We cast off and sailed about 25 miles down river to Martins Slough, where we are anchored for the night. It was a rainy trip which reminded us that fall is coming. We are dry and glad to be underway.

Bill and Nina